STAMFORD — Voters returned three incumbents to a Board of Education already deep into the process of addressing school overcrowding.
A grateful Geoff Alswanger, the current board’s president and a Democrat, thanked the voters calling it a humbling experience.
He was the unofficial vote leader on the board with 10,439 votes.
“It’s back to work,” he said.
Richard Lyons II, the other Democratic incumbent was also re-elected with 9,681 votes.
Lyons said he felt the voters were confident in the board and that the continuity will be good going forward as the group works with the other boards to address the challenges ahead.
John Leydon Jr., the Republican incumbent won his seat outright with 9,182 votes. In the last election, he won his way onto the board due to a minority representation rule.
Leydon said he looks forward to addressing with significant issues facing the district and felt the voters feel the board is conducting its business in a thoughtful manner.
The key issues dominating the campaign for the Board were overcrowding, taxes, mental health and quality of education in the city. Stamford has seen its public school enrollment rise for the last several years and is now above 16,000. At least seven elementary schools are considered at or above capacity and projections are for all but two to be at capacity in the next year or so.
Since the summer, the board has been discussing ways to address the situation, but has not settled on any short-term or long-term solutions. So far, discussions have been had over adding portable classrooms, redistricting, moving fifth graders into the middle schools and adding a school by either building a new one or renovating an existing building.
In the meantime, the district is also engaged in a $25 million maintenance program with more work needed at the schools, most of which are more than 50 years old.
And the district’s test scores continue to be a disappointment in the city with large disparities along racial, economic and linguistic lines.
While overcrowding has dominated the concerns of parents and nonparents, who are concerned about taxes, an emerging issue confronting the board is mental health. Two high school students recently took their own lives and several of the candidates and current board members have been expressing the need to provide more education and support services to address the issue.
Of the candidates who feel short Tuesday night, Republican Nicola Tarzia, who has no children, said he wanted to run the district more as a business but was keen on developing and expanding strategies to prevent bullying in the district. Democrat Dolores Burgess voiced the need for diversity on the board in a district where no single race is considered a majority. She was adamant about providing a quality education for all. Green Party member Richard Duffee was passionate about create a more equal playing field for all students and railed against the massive economic divide in the city and the state. He said in an email he was glad to provide voters with another choice and would like to see the Board of Education less politicized in the future.